Finding skilled workers in 2021 remains a challenge for all industries due to the pandemic and resulting economic impact.1 The current estimate of open electrician jobs that are posted and unfilled throughout the US is 81,2922 to a great deal due to COVID-19.
Main causes of electrician shortage:
- Electrical demand, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statics3, indicates that electrician jobs are expected to grow 9% from 2020 to 2030, therefore, 66,200 new jobs will need to be filled. There is a significant increase in demand for areas like residential and light commercial EV charging installation and service, as well as for solar and solar battery storage, installation and integration. Consumers are using more electricity than before and the overall need to install, service and maintain the electrical systems is immense. Current electrical consumption in the U.S. is expected to grow by 14%.4
- The supply and demand are extremely mismatched
- There is an increase in the need for electricians due to the increase in consumption and demand for electrical supply
- Climate change is creating a need unsurpassed in history for an increase in the number of highly skilled line and utility workers to help communities recover quickly from increasingly dramatic and frequent weather events and natural disasters
- There is a lack of “interested” younger, educated and trained electricians, resulting in a lower number of workers entering the electrical trade
- Experienced electricians are retiring in record numbers through planned attrition and early retirement due to the pandemic and, interestingly, the average age of a journeymen electrician is 45
- Lack of trained and “interested” electricians entering the trade
- Younger age groups are less interested in skilled labor and millennials are 40% more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree5 moving them into a different direction
- High school recruitment is missing the opportunity to get students excited about the field and is a major short fall in the expansion of young students pursuing a successful electrical career
- Overall, students are unaware that the average annual salary of an electrician, dependent upon location and experience, is $36,000 – $91,000, with a median salary of $59,190, around $28.45 per hour
- Experienced electricians are rapidly leaving and retiring from the business
- COVID-19 has accelerated the retirement process in all industries, with more baby boomers retiring in 2020 according to PEW research7
- The pandemic has pushed older electricians into retirement early due to health concerns for themselves and their families
- The Great Recession and downturn of 2007-2009 burst the housing bubble and created a global financial crisis generating a deep and negative impact on the construction industry resulting in many trade workers not returning to the business when jobs and construction started back up in 2010
How can we improve the current electrician shortage?
- Assist trade and vocational schools in offering attractive scholarships and apprenticeships.
- Offer exceptional hands-on training in the real world and field.
- Promote High School Career days and increase all gender and diversity recruitment.
- Adjust benefits and wages to be competitive in the employment marketplace.
- Cause the industry to adapt by creating an environment where younger and high school aged females are comfortable entering the trade and understand they can have a vital role in the electrical segment.
- Shorten apprenticeships for journeymen from four years to a lesser time frame to remain competitive in employment recruiting.
- Make electrical training programs in high schools a STEM elective.
What are some of the ways this shortage can be corrected?
Students at high school age will be matched up with a professional mentor, they will communicate online weekly and meet in person once a month. During this program the students will develop the knowledge, skills, and mindset to be successful in high school, but also to prepare them for the electrical trade. The mentorship portion of the program can start to take hold during the student’s sophomore year. Networking and career skills will be a part of the mentorship process. During the student’s junior and senior years in high school, more time during the week will be spent in the field working with their mentor/professional electrician. The skills learned during this co/op mentor program can be tied to the student’s high school graduation requirement. I believe it will prepare the students to go directly into an electrician training program and be well prepared for the role.
Will improvements in technology help or hurt the electrical industry and electricians?
The answer is a resounding “NO” it won’t. Technologies such as energy efficiencies like LED lighting, smart meters for grid upgrades, networking systems, low voltage wiring, digital electricity PoE (Power over Internet), and smart lighting are all areas of specializations. There is an increasing need for existing electricians to take on these new technologies and a new segment of entry level electricians to fill these roles.
What are the top fifteen skills needed to become a successful electrician?
- Problem solver (will be at the heart of every good electrician, all day long they diagnose problems and come up with the best solutions)
- Customer Service (polite, professional, patient, friendly, clear communicator, reliable, trustworthy)
- Manual dexterity and 20/20 or corrected vision (eye-hand coordination, steady hand)
- Basic Math skills (Algebra)
- Ability to operate power tools and hand tools
- Physical fitness
- Electrical installation and safety knowledge
- Electrical safety rules and procedures based on Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) guidelines
- How to interpret the National Electrical Code (NEC)
- How to navigate the local municipal codes or Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) as needed or required
- How to read blueprints
- Flexibility (work is usually on an ‘as needed’ basis, not always a 9a-5p set schedule job)
- Ability to be a critical thinker and ask directed questions to uncover vital facts to problem solve
- Desire to enjoy the work, yet do it in a skillful, safe, efficient manner
What I know and believe is that young or experienced adults who would like to pivot and make a career change can be very excited to join the electrical profession. They will enjoy a lifelong journey of job security, outstanding wages and income possibility, and job satisfaction. They can work and reside anywhere in the world because electrical work installations, service and maintenance are global. It does, however, take a deep commitment of time, energy, drive, and tenacity to be successful.
- CNBC: PUBLISHED WED, OCT 20 20215:54 AM EDT UPDATED WED, OCT 20 20216:46 PM EDT
- current estimate of open electrician jobs
- U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statics
- Current electrical consumption in the U.S. is expected to grow by 14%.
- millennials are 40% more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree
- The median salary at $59,190, around $28.45 per hour based on Forbes.com
- more baby boomers retiring in 2020 according to PEW research